The World Bank’s explosive report on Paul Wolfowitz was finally released late this afternoon and, as expected, it doesn’t back up Wolfie’s claim of a “smear campaign” against him.
In fact, the only smear is the slime trail left by Wolfie and his adviser Robin Cleveland (the Boeing-scandal figure he imported from the White House budget office) as they finagled a way-out-of-line sweetheart deal for Wolfie’s sweetheart, Shaha Ali Riza.
The most startling thing I’ve seen in an early perusal of the report is that Riza really screwed things up back in 2005 by demanding a huge pay raise once Wolfie unethically stepped into the fray on her behalf because, according to her, she had been screwed out of past raises by bank managers. That very well may have happened, but it threw a big monkey wrench into the works.
As I wade through the report, I wish I’d talked with Xavier Coll, at the time the bank’s vice president for human resources, when I broke the story in September 2005 that Wolfie had sent bank flack Riza to the State Department to work with Dick Cheney‘s daughter Liz. I had no idea back then that Wolfie and Cleveland had strong-armed the bank’s personnel director — as subsequent reports have said and as this new report confirms.
One particularly delicious excerpt from the report:
Mr. Wolfowitz has taken the position that there were no rules that applied to the situation, and therefore no rules could have been broken in resolving the matter as he did.
Which is immediately followed by this:
On the contrary, the Ad Hoc Group is of the view that the situation was governed by specific provisions in the President’s contract, the Code of Conduct for Board Officials, the Principles of Staff Employment, and Staff Rules as well as the other standards set forth in the Legal Framework described in Section III, above, and discussed in the following sections.
The way I read this report, the crucial period was August 10-12, 2005. On August 10, Coll met with Wolfie and Cleveland ” “in preparation for a meeting on August 11 with Ms. Riza.” The report continues:
During that meeting, Mr. Coll was told to stop consulting with the Bank’s General Counsel on this matter.
Think about it: The bank’s personnel director is instructed by the bank president not to get this potentially hinky employment deal for the bank president’s girlfriend vetted by the bank’s lawyers. Oh, brother. Hell of a way to run a railroad or a war. This should tell you something about how we got so snarled in the Iraq debacle.
A digression: Wolfowitz told the bank board’s Ad Hoc Group investigating his behavior “that he had no clear recollection of the sequence of events.” On the other hand, Xavier Coll, the panel said, “presented the Ad Hoc Group with detailed recollection of the chronology of events based on contemporaneous records.” Hell, Cheney should have hired someone like Coll to plan the ill-fated and unjustified invasion, instead of letting Wolfie do it.
Anyway, on August 11, Coll met with Riza. She proposed a huge pay hike for herself, along with guaranteed promotions while she was being “seconded” to the State Department.
Riza, for her part, carried a grudge into that meeting. She much later told the Ad Hoc Group investigating committee that, in the report’s words, ” ‘two consecutive MENA [Middle East North Africa region] vice presidents’ had not promoted her due to ‘discrimination,’ because she is ‘a Muslim, Arabic woman who dares to question the status quo.’ ”
As I said, she may very well be right that she was a victim of discrimination, but the new report deals with her harshly on this:
…Her desire for compensation for a past grievance, not related to Mr. Wolfowitz’s arrival, appears to have driven the most controversial elements of the agreement she reached with the Bank (with Mr. Wolfowitz directing the Bank’s side of the negotiation).
Xavier Coll apparently didn’t think much of her strong-arming either. On August 12, the day after Coll met with Riza, he met with Wolfie and Cleveland again to discuss Riza’s proposed terms. The report goes on:
According to Mr. Wolfowitz, he knew of Mr. Coll’s “discomfort” with the proposed agreement with Ms. Riza. He stated that Mr. Coll did not tell him the proposals were outside the Bank’s rules, and that, in any case, “there were no established Bank practices for a situation like this.” According to Mr. Coll, he told Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Cleveland that the terms proposed by Ms. Riza, regarding her promotion increase, her annual increases and guaranteed promotion to Levels I and J were “outside the Staff Rules” and that moving forward with them was a reputational risk to the Bank. In Mr. Coll’s view, there is “no doubt the President knew or had been made aware of by me that this was outside the rules.”
Somebody’s lying, and my money’s on Wolfowitz’s being the fibber. Moreover, the report notes:
Coll viewed the provision for guaranteed promotion to Levels I and J as “more outrageous than everything else” and therefore insisted to Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Cleveland on some form of peer review for the promotions to Levels I and J, even though he did not believe that would bring the proposal within the Staff Rules.
The Ad Hoc Group notes in the record a document described by Mr. Wolfowitz as an “early draft” with Mr. Wolfowitz’s handwritten edits, in which Mr. Wolfowitz directs Mr. Coll to accept all of Ms. Riza’s terms.
But, hey, Wolfie says there were no rules, so he didn’t break any rules. He’s probably right: In his world, the two war fronts of Iraq and the World Bank, there were no rules.
I say “were” because he’ll be out of the World Bank very soon. Iraq is another matter, of course.